N.K. weekend artillery firing did not breach inter-Korean accord: defense minister

SEOUL-- Defense Minister Suh Wook on Tuesday rejected President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol's claim that North Korea's weekend artillery firing violated a 2018 inter-Korean military tension reduction accord.

During a parliamentary session, Suh said the North fired shots Sunday from a site "far north" of a buffer zone in the Yellow Sea that the two Koreas agreed to set up under their Comprehensive Military Agreement (CMA).

Earlier in the day, Yoon called the firing a "clear" violation of the CMA that stipulates the buffer zone spanning around 135 kilometers in the Yellow Sea and around 80 km in the East Sea. It bans artillery firing and naval drills in the zone.

"No, it's far north," Suh said in response to a lawmaker's question of whether the firing took place within the buffer zone demarcated by the CMA. "It was not an area covered by the agreement."

Military sources have said the North fired four shots, using multiple rocket launchers, from around Sukchon, north of Pyongyang.

Yoon's spokeperson later criticized Suh's response, emphasizing the North's action clearly violates the "spirit of the September 19 CMA" that calls for easing military tensions on the Korean Peninsula and building trust.

"Asserting that the North's artillery firing is not a violation of the September 19 agreement when there is no clear grasp of where the firing took place and where it landed, it (Suh's answer) just can be seen as an act of protecting North Korea," Kim Eun-hye, Yoon's spokesperson, said.

In November 2019, South Korea's military defined the North's coastal artillery firing from Changrin Islet near the Northern Limit Line, a de facto inter-Korean sea border in the Yellow Sea, as a CMA violation.

Following the third summit between President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Pyongyang on Sept. 19, 2018, the two Koreas signed the CMA to reduce military tensions, prevent accidental clashes and build mutual trust.

Source: Yonhap News Agency